Until this afternoon, my only recollection of Jon Embree was not exactly positive. It came during the 2012 football season, when the talent-deprived University of Colorado team came to into Bulldog Stadium and was summarily crushed by Fresno State, 69-14. Embree was the Buffaloes head coach. To nobody’s surprise — except perhaps his own — he was fired at the end of the 1-11 season after going 4-21 in two years.
Thanks to a fascinating story in the Charlotte Observer, I gained new insight about Embree this afternoon. The story by Observer reporter Scott Fowler is primarily about former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth’s son, whose mother, Cherica Adams, was murdered in 1999. As Fowler reports:
“She was killed because of a murder conspiracy masterminded by Carruth, the first-round draft choice of the Carolina Panthers in 1997. Carruth wanted to kill his on-and-off girlfriend because she was eight months pregnant with his child and he didn’t want to pay child support. He hired a hit man to pull the trigger.
The four bullets that struck and ultimately killed Cherica Adams in a south Charlotte drive-by shooting also severely damaged her unborn baby.
That baby is now this boy. He will turn 17 in November – only seven years younger than his mother was when she died. His name is Chancellor Lee Adams.”
The story focuses on several heroes, starting with Cherica’s mother, Saundra Adams, who who has raised her grandson while he battles cerebral palsy and brain damage. Adams says she and Chancellor will be at the prison to greet Rae Carruth when he is released in 2018.
Adams is a remarkable woman, full of forgiveness and positive spirit.
“I would like Chancellor and I to be there so he could officially meet his son. Even if it’s for a few minutes – just have an embrace with his son,” she told Fowler. “Maybe I can just talk to him and tell him some important things about what his son is doing, and where he is in life.”
There are other heroes in Chancellor’s life, of course. The occupational therapist. Family friends. Doctors and nurses. The physical therapist.
Alas, the NFL and Carolina Panthers have done nothing.
Jon Embree is not the type to do nothing, as we discovered in the story. The current tight ends coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers helped recruit Carruth to Colorado but has never contacted his former player in prison. Instead, he decided to reach out to Saundra Adams.
Embree helped launch a foundation called “Buffs 4 Life,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting past University of Colorado athletes and coaches in need. The foundation has made a donation to Saundra and Chancellor for each of the past four years, and Embree is now spearheading efforts to raise $80,000 so that Chancellor can have a bedroom and a bathroom downstairs in his house, where he’ll continue to live after Saundra Adams eventually dies.
Football coaches come and go, and I figured Embree wouldn’t last much longer at Colorado following that mid-September evening game in Fresno in 2012. I wasn’t wrong. But thanks to today’s Charlotte Observer story, I’m now able to form a much more complete impression of this great man.